The holidays are especially busy times for grocers, but they also present big opportunities to maximize sales during the weeks leading up to the big day. Knowing how to anticipate and meet consumer needs makes all the difference between a successful holiday season and a lackluster one.
To take advantage of the upcoming Easter Weekend, grocers can get fresh departments ready by anticipating consumer purchasing behaviors and preparing their stores accordingly.
Predicting What Consumers Will Want this Easter
A 2021 report by Explorer Research revealed that families celebrated Easter in the same ways they did prior to COVID-19, including their pre-planning purchasing behaviors. Food and beverage items that many stuck to included classic favorites like potatoes, pies, and ham for meals, as well as chocolates and cookies, with limited-edition food offerings being of particular appeal. A third of respondents said that partially or fully prepared meals were included in their shopping experiences.
Although deciding on recipes was influenced by social media and those who would be attending the celebrations, in-store merchandising efforts were a significant contributor to final purchasing decisions.
As stores decide what to prioritize and how to merchandise their products, they don’t need to stray too far from what has worked in the past. Consumers are most likely going to be sticking to their traditional behaviors and looking for what’s familiar. Outside of the usual promotional planning, consider offering options containing all-in-one traditional meals to go and classic home cooked favorites.
How a Fresh Food Retail Platform Helps Prepare Stores
It’s simple. It all comes down to intelligent forecasting and automated processes. The Invafresh Fresh Food Retail Platform (FFRP) does just this. It automates and optimizes production planning and fresh ordering, improves in-stock merchandising, and creates accurate recommendations for assortment planning. These easy-to-use features mean not only experiencing an increase in store revenue, but also improving labor efficiency to tackle the challenges associated with the continuing labor shortages.
Below are some ways in which leveraging the Fresh Food Retail Platform helps you get the most out of in-store sales during Easter, and any other holiday season.
Higher In-Stock Availability and Quality of Fresh
The traditional way grocers do their forecasting has usually been to look at overall historical sales data and extrapolate to determine production planning for the upcoming season. Often it is instinct driven, not data driven decision-making, which can lead to a range of issues, especially when those decisions are being made by inexperienced staff. One issue with this approach is that many systems tend to lump together data across product categories. This gives an inaccurate perception of the sell-through rate for each type of product. Being able to isolate fresh product sales from non-fresh product sales gives you a more accurate viewpoint. Using a system that is designed specifically for fresh forecasting and based on the movement of fresh goods in-store is key.
With a FFRP that focuses on fresh, you’re able to determine at what point production planning should begin for the Easter Weekend, and ensure all the necessary raw materials are available. It also indicates at what point seasonal sales typically start increasing and decreasing. A fresh retail platform even captures the movement of items that are Easter-specific so that you know when they have to be dropped from planning.
In the case where a fresh item sells quicker than expected and stock becomes low or is at risk of running out, a useful feature of a fresh retail platform is the ability to enable store workers to top up inventory by adding the item to the production plan so that more units can be produced during the day. This is particularly helpful during shift changes. As one worker finishes their shift, the next worker coming in won’t necessarily know the status of stock for each merchandising display throughout the store. Workers are able to produce a production list containing all the items that need topping up and pass along to the next worker whatever they are unable to finish before their shift is up or they go on break. This ensures that items are always in stock on shelves so sales can be maximized.
Promotions Planning and Merchandising
During seasonal promotions, grocers know sales are going to increase for the items being promoted. What they may not know is when those sales are going to start trending downwards once the promotion or season ends. Unless you have an intelligent forecasting system that is specifically designed to analyze those fresh trends, you won’t know when to decrease or stop inventory orders and could end up with a lot of surplus stock that goes bad. The net result? An increase in inventory shrinkage adversely impacting both store operating margins and the consumer experience.
Another way a FFRP helps with promotions and merchandising planning is by optimizing on a store-by-store basis. Grocers with multiple locations of varying sizes and layouts will differ in how much space they can allocate to in-store merchandising displays. An intelligent forecasting system is capable of understanding those store-to-store differences, how much in-store promotional display space is available in each store, and if there are store-specific promotions.
How much stock each display can hold and sell through can be forecasted, as well as how much stock to produce for items made in-store. This is especially helpful for items with a short shelf life. This helps forecast production planning and inventory management so that stores can make sure they have all the necessary raw materials and labor on hand at the time of preparation and production. Most systems are only able to indicate how much of an item needs to be produced. They are unable to calculate all the associated raw materials, quantities of each material, time required for each step in the recipe, and labor that is needed to produce the items.
Whenever an in-store promotion takes place, there are many different elements that need to be managed and tracked. In addition to making sure there are enough raw materials on hand to produce the necessary quantities of products, accurate merchandising is critical. An intelligent forecasting system can also help alert workers to ensure that promotional prices are kept up-to-date on the shelves and removed or set back to the original price once the promo ends.
Assortment Planning and Growth
When it comes to adding a new item to your assortment mix, being able to test out a product and add it to the production plan if it’s successful is critical. With a fresh retail platform, if you decide you want to add it to your assortment offering, you can easily roll out the new recipe to your stores, and connect it to your main procurement system so that quantities, raw materials, labor, and production time can be forecasted and added to the daily product plans at store-level.
A FFRP is great for optimizing assortment offerings based on what performs best at each individual store level. Not only do grocers with multiple stores vary in the amount of space they have to store and display products, there are also demographic differences between the customer markets depending on the location of the store. For example, some stores might be in areas where the average household income is higher, or an area might have a higher concentration of customers of a certain ethnic background that desire specific types of products.
If a grocer wants to introduce a new item to the assortment for the Easter Weekend, they can use Invafresh’s advanced analytics to figure out options that can be produced in-store. Additionally, the cost of ingredients are always fluctuating so the fresh retail platform is able to keep each ingredient up-to-date and generate alerts when margins are affected. This is particularly important for when you’re developing new products to add to your seasonal assortment. If the recipe doesn’t yield enough margin, you can find ways to replace higher costing raw materials with cheaper alternatives, or adjust labor hours by modifying preparation time.
Labor Efficiencies and Cost Savings
An impact of COVID-19 has been labor shortages within the grocery retail sector. Invafresh helps improve the utilization of limited labor resources, as well as find ways to save on costs by optimizing production efficiency. Workers are able to follow the step-by-step processes in the platform to organize and manage themselves in a way that enables them to produce what’s needed for the day in as little time and effort as required.
For example, not only do workers know what items to produce and how many, they also know in what order everything should be produced, and how much of each raw material needs to be taken from the back at one time. This reduces the number of times a worker spends going back and forth to pick up ingredients from the storage area.
There’s no guesswork involved by the worker, no need to track down the manager to figure out what needs to be produced, and no need to search through recipes to figure out what ingredients are required. All that workers need to do is reference what’s in the system for the day. Instructions for each recipe are laid out step-by-step in the system so that any worker, even if they are new on the job, is able to follow and produce consistent quality end products.
Easter is a traditional holiday where people of all ages celebrate with family and friends, however little or large their budget might be. There is so much that grocers can do to increase in-store sales if they have the right technology in place. A Fresh Food Retail Platform enables grocers to make smart planning, promotional, merchandising and assortment decisions for key holidays based on fresh-specific data at the store level. By understanding the combination of current trends and historical sales, grocers hold the insight to accurately predict future demand and be successful at maneuvering the unique elements that influence fresh movement and ultimately, the bottom line.